Aims: The complex architecture of the human atria may create physical substrates for sustained re-entry to drive atrial fibrillation (AF). The existence of sustained, anatomically defined AF drivers in humans has been challenged partly due to the lack of simultaneous endocardial-epicardial (Endo-Epi) mapping coupled with high-resolution 3D structural imaging.
Methods and results: Coronary-perfused human right atria from explanted diseased hearts (n = 8, 43-72 years old) were optically mapped simultaneously by three high-resolution CMOS cameras (two aligned Endo-Epi views (330 µm2 resolution) and one panoramic view). 3D gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (GE-MRI, 80 µm3 resolution) revealed the atrial wall structure varied in thickness (1.0 ± 0.7-6.8 ± 2.4 mm), transmural fiber angle differences, and interstitial fibrosis causing transmural activation delay from 23 ± 11 to 43 ± 22 ms at increased pacing rates. Sustained AF (>90 min) was induced by burst pacing during pinacidil (30-100 µM) perfusion. Dual-sided sub-Endo-sub-Epi optical mapping revealed that AF was driven by spatially and temporally stable intramural re-entry with 107 ± 50 ms cycle length and transmural activation delay of 67 ± 31 ms. Intramural re-entrant drivers were captured primarily by sub-Endo mapping, while sub-Epi mapping visualized re-entry or 'breakthrough' patterns. Re-entrant drivers were anchored on 3D micro-anatomic tracks (15.4 ± 2.2 × 6.0 ± 2.3 mm2, 2.9 ± 0.9 mm depth) formed by atrial musculature characterized by increased transmural fiber angle differences and interstitial fibrosis. Targeted radiofrequency ablation of the tracks verified these re-entries as drivers of AF.
Conclusions: Integrated 3D structural-functional mapping of diseased human right atria ex vivo revealed that the complex atrial microstructure caused significant differences between Endo vs. Epi activation during pacing and sustained AF driven by intramural re-entry anchored to fibrosis-insulated atrial bundles.
Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Catheter radiofrequency ablation; Fibrosis; Gadolinium-enhanced MRI; Intramural re-entry; Optical mapping; Rotor.
Published on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology. All rights reserved. © The Author 2015. For permissions please email: email@example.com.